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Europe, the future of Public Services? Public Services, the future of Europe?
AN HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE ON COLLECTIVE EUROPEAN SERVICES
Ph. FRÉMAUX (Alternatives économiques) - I have the good fortune to chair this first session. François Fourquet will now address us for the next fifteen minutes
François FOURQUET (Université Paris 8) - Good morning to you all. I have been asked to place our discussions in their historical context. The difficulty is in reducing this to a quarter of an hour. We have had very lively debates on the question raised by our friends of Réseaux Services Publics on the possible arguments we can present against the 'neo-liberal' doctrine or ideology which has prevailed for the last twenty years, longer in fact within European circles. Frederich Hayek has been a landmark for me. I started reading him and I can say he is a long way from the dry and dogmatic doctrinaire he is usually portrayed to be
Public services as the result of a 'spontaneous order'
Is there such a thing as a European society?
If they are to exist, European public services will themselves be the result
of a kind of spontaneous order. If they exist (and I cannot allow myself
to pronounce on this a priori because the Anglo-Saxon world is in the ascendant
compared with the construction of Europe), they will be the result of a
spontaneous order, of a conflict of opinions and interests and of social
conflicts which should be arbitrated through a democratic debate. This
is the norm. What is democracy? It is pacification at the cost of the institutionalisation
of conflicts. No one knows in advance the result of these contests.
Ph. FRÉMAUX - Thank you. I share your opinion on the first and third points, but am unsure about the second one. We may agree with your conclusions, we can argue about their basis with regard to the making of Europe and the way you treat the English. We can also consider that the United States are an extension of Europe and that they dominate through cultural products originating mainly from our continent. Europe's problem consists in the way capitalism organises itself on a basis which is not so much international as transatlantic (for the movement of trade, capital and patents). Asia remains in a fairly different situation in relation to this. The French vision of a fortress is at fault. As soon as Leon Britan talks of an agreement on transatlantic free-exchange people express outrage, when in fact a lot of our external trade is with the United States. The idea of a framework is not bad. What defines Europe? You mentioned Christianity several times but not the way it came into conflict with modernity from the Renaissance onwards. As for the relationship between Europe and the rest of the world, what makes us special is the strength of the universal approach. There is an obvious tension between what defines us as a closed universe and the fact that fragmentation is an obvious tendency, since our approach must be valid for all, for better or for worse. There is enough here for countless discussions for the rest of the session. I now give the floor to Katherine Varin.
VARIN (Réseaux Services Publics) - This is the first
session of this conference and I find myself wondering "what are we talking
The origin of public services
Which relevant framework for our argument: the world or Europe?
The future of Europe and of public service
quote A.-M. Thiesse again: "the supranational European entity is becoming
a legal, economic, financial, police and monetary State: it is not a space
with which one can identify. It lacks the whole of the symbolic heritage
through which nations have been able to offer individuals a collective
interest, a brotherhood, protection". I would add that public utilities
are capable of offering this symbolic heritage to Europe.
These raise the question of what kind of society we want to live in.
F. FOURQUET - A point of clarification on the way England is presented - I request permission from the Chair to add some comments: my presentation may seem to present the English as troublemakers but this is not what I think. England has an international dimension which France and Europe do not have to the same degree. The City is a banking centre which processes financial transactions for American interests, but this is also because England has always had a world wide outlook. It does not imply contempt in relation to the continent. England exemplifies the fact that globalisation may prevail over Europeanisation
Jean MEDAM - Why should we oppose globalisation and/or Europeanisation? -Could we not rather consider, in order to reconcile both sides of the argument, that Europe should perceive globalisation through Europe? To England, globalisation and ideology are not incompatible. We do not have separate globalist and individualist camps, but a way Europeans can absorb globalisation. Economies can be said to create information in the same way as ideologies can be said to create a market or an economy. A view of globalisation creates a material economy. I'd like to remind you of the Vodafone/Manesmann case. It is very important in so much as it demonstrates the power of English capitalism. Vodafone's victory on Manesmann was consequent on the present reorganisation of the German economy and we may come back to these consequences.
QUERRIEN - Our debates lack an urban dimension - Revue des annales
de la recherche urbaine (Review of the annals on urban research)
- What is lacking in both interventions is the urban civilisation, the
European cities, the world cities and the cities as worlds. The World Bank
invited me to New York three weeks ago to a meeting with the main American
and international banks in order to try to convince the representatives
of the world's big cities to be marked(as companies are marked) for their
profitability, thus becoming international investment locations for main
banks. A financial battle started during the meeting of the United Nations
in Istanbul in 1995. International bankers want to select suitable cities
irrespective of their national status and turn them into places for economic
investment, particularly in public services. The aim is to issue loans
on international markets in order to improve life in those cities: St Petersburg,
Hanoi, Mexico City
P. BAUBY - On the three sources and the three components of public service - Our debates underline three main questions: spontaneous order, the dialectic between the spontaneous and the planned, the link between western and European civilisations. It leads me to expand on what François was saying in his introduction. The threefold origins of public services are: Christianity, local movements with their urban links and what links western and European civilisations, i.e. industrialisation and the working class movement. The combination of these three elements - and not merely their common origin, i.e. Christian values - produced at the end of the 19th century the concept of public services. The three components also represent the right by individuals to access to specific goods and services. They represent what is common to the local, national or regional communities and a way to adopt deliberate policies. When you link sources and components, an original approach emerges which is somewhat lacking in the United States. Thus, Europe is a relevant step towards becoming an actor in the process of globalisation. There is a whole variety of modes of globalisation in which Europe can play an active part.
BOUAL - Is there such a thing as a European society? - The question
raised by François emerged at the end of our two years of research.
If there is no specific society at European level, should we build one?
What political motivation do we have within the European Union (enlarged
tomorrow) to build a true European society with interactions between countries,
since people visualise this European society differently in the United
Kingdom, France or Germany? Thus this first question is political.
R. FARNETTI - We need to go beyond the opposition between Anglo-Saxon capitalism and social economy capitalism - I specialise in the British economy. We have made a very liberal use of the terms used by Michel Albert in Capitalisme contre capitalisme (Capitalism vs. capitalism); these are indeed convenient from an educational point of view, with, on one side anglo-saxon capitalism represented by Great Britain and the USA (mainly caring about returns for its shareholders), and on the other, a social market capitalism represented by Japan and Germany. We need to go beyond this limited framework. I prefer to use a framework developed by Will Hutton, one of Tony Blair's advisers, who distinguishes four main types of capitalism. Though he puts Anglo-Saxon, American and British capitalism in the same basket, he also underlines basic differences between American and British capitalism. I will be fairly provocative on the matters of the City and that of Vodafone/Manesman. Vodafone was unknown 4 or 5 years ago. It experienced exponential growth on the Stock Exchange and was able to grab one of the flagships of the German mechanical engineering industries (Manesman). What is British about Vodafone? Not a lot. It was created through investment funds from the four corners of the world. The City is an offshore island, i.e. an island drifting somewhere in the south East of Great Britain where a number of American, Japanese or German banks have dropped anchor.
The reason for the English attitude with regard to the European construction - We can explain the English attitude to Europe accordingly. They do not want to be confined to the space we call the European construction because this area is not sufficiently large as far as possible profits are concerned. British and American capitalists deal in investments but the United State have remnants of an industry. Industries have almost disappeared in Great Britain except in some specialised sectors; it is also the second most profitable domain for pension funds (about 20%) after Holland (about 30/40%), whereas Michel Aglietta in Le Capitalisme patrimonial (Patrimonial capitalism) mentioned an obligatory threshold of about 15%. If this trend was replicated in the United States, they would also lose their industrial output. This adviser of Tony Blair's is also one of his fiercest critics. He knows the Stock Exchange very well and was once a broker there
Ph. FRÉMAUX - On European civil society - The destruction of any possibility of incorporation and association means that between the market and the State there is no one. Public services are a means to reconstitute social links and embodying collective values. Other countries have been able to develop intermediate modes of organisation, and even if the market disrupts our French organisational systems, do we not have here the potential rediscovery of intermediate systems? I am always puzzled when I hear civil society invoked in the name of the defence of public services. I search for it because it is not merely composed by the discourse of those who invoke it (in the way the proletariat expresses itself through the Party's avant-garde), it also implies an organisation (associations and bodies to give it life). In the defence of public services, I see clearly what motivation public service unions may have in opposing specific modernisation initiatives, or the motivation of the management of these companies in relation to their own strategic projects (with their inherent ambivalence); but what seems to me lacking is the mobilisation of users in spite of the efforts of the good people I see in this room.
Ph. BRACHET - The recognition of the SGI (services of general interest) in Europe will mainly be a matter of civilisation, of the organisation of Europe as a dialogue between traditions and the history of its different components. Neither the market which tends to water down public service activities, nor technical requirements which are very powerful, will arrive at the completion of their organisation. What is at stake at European level is the attitude of politicians; here we can see how States are partly paralysed by lack of democracy and transparency, as they are in different ways at their national levels. Thus, how can we initiate a critical and cultural debate on the organisation of SGI in spite of all these handicaps? Europe must have a greater awareness of the need for an organisation of services in the general interest and this must be one of the main instruments of organisation of Europe as a specific democracy. This should be one of our main lines of analysis and initiative in the months and years to come.
G. MULLIEZ - Social conflict and inequalities - I am a trade-unionist for Sud-PTT and supervisor at La Poste (the Post Office). At the end of the second world war social conflicts played an important part in the creation of public services in France. For a long time the French working class movement demanded two things: equal public services for all and staff protection, demands which are in the balance now through partial privatisation. Industrial conflict is curbed through the limitation and questioning of statutes. It cannot express itself as it used to. One of the aims of some of these processes of privatisation is to call into question workers' rights in order to reduce the possibility of industrial conflict, though this process is not yet far gone within public services. The social movement of 1995 is that of public services. It has raised, not always clearly and specifically, the question of public services in France and possibly in Europe. The weakening of the public sector and of public services is a factor in social inequality and poverty. Some social categories cannot access services because users have been replaced by customers. Local inequalities become more and more obvious: the post offices of some suburbs are not as well equipped as those of Paris.
CAVOURIARIS - A historical perspective - We should look at the conditions
in Europe from a historical viewpoint in terms of the vocabulary
used as well as concepts and policies elaborated through different programmes.
It all started during the Roman Empire and also since the second world
war. Nowadays, for example, we can compare European and American models.
Behind the concept of convergence is a political reality. Europe does not
consist of a spontaneous order. There exists a political will, a direction
taken by various specific groups, which implies the existence of more than
one Europe: Europe of cities, of consumers, of regions, of trade-unions.
There is a contradiction here, because political convergence should lead
to the necessary enlargement of Europe, and this is difficult to realise.
European civil society - We will look into existing programmes at the
level of civil society. A civil society which identifies itself through
democracy, peace and knowledge through participation, is a very good thing.
Mme Varin raised the question of the nature of civil society. The movements
of Europeans within the territories of Member-States almost ceased at the
time of the creation of the European Union, and I am not saying that they
existed previously to a huge extent. What are the movements of populations
within Europe? Let us take other examples to assess them. What translations
of English or German books do we have in France? Civil society is
not emerging because its fundamental principles do not exist at the level
of democracy, of peace (which died in Kosovo) and at the level of participation.
Instances of inequality constantly appear and prevent its creation.
M. HEINTZ - National French Railways(SNCF) - A number of interventions seem to show a certain amount of confusion between public service agencies and public services themselves. Europe is in a process of evolution at the level of public services: public service structures tend to be replaced by public service missions. Thinking on the nature of public services is evolving. This is not new and a lot of ambiguity has surrounded this concept. I will take the railways as an example. They appeared around 1840 in the form of private companies. The State had to be involved because investments were so huge that bankers could not raise them alone. People's land also had to be expropriated along the planned routes. As early as 1848, railway workers wanted to nationalise the railways because of financial scandals (a strong tendency by capitalism to grab money which these workers considered as public property). The SNCF (French Railways) appeared in 1937 or 1938 and took over from companies which had all gone bankrupt. At that time, the first C.G.T. (Confédération Générale du Travail/General Confederation of workers) congress had stressed that nationalisation would unite workers and users in the management of railways, but it resulted in a takeover by the State. The new company appointed boards of directors to manage the bankruptcy of the private companies. It must be stressed that the democratic dimension of public services is all relative, as in fact there is nothing democratic about them. It's a structure managed by the State. People within them have a particular status This takeover and control by the State were justified: I have not heard anything about this today but you must have mentioned it in your conferences. Strategic and military reasons have also led to the control by the State of a number of activities. We live nowadays in a liberal ideological environment which wants companies functioning as networks, the end of monopolies and the introduction of competition. In the area of railways Great Britain is an example of this. These are very powerful trends which are difficult to resist but which nevertheless cannot be supported by any example of success.
may wonder whether reflection on these questions does not rest on notions
which may lag behind reality. There is a public service for water in France,
but it is not a publicly owned service and is not a public company. The
railways provide a number of public services that the State or the policies
of successive governments have failed to define with any accuracy. The
advantage of ambiguity is that it contains something for everybody.
J. MEDAM - I did not say that Vodafone represents British capital, but on the contrary that what happened with Vodafone shows that something based in the City is now global. Capitalism does not exist in a vacuum and Vodafone would not exist without the development of mobile phones, without an industrial basis. Manesman was split into small pieces. Vodafone took over the mobile phone part of it and wants to sell the rest for cash. .
Aspects of work as a factor of production - Europe differs from the USA with regard to work mobility. From what I understand, when an American is out of work he moves to another State with his family and this may happen several times in his lifetime. This is not the case to the same extent in Europe. In the publishing world for example, a British editor can have a French manuscript printed in India thanks to information technology. We can imagine that the lesser mobility of the European workforce could be offset by the possibilities offered by information and technology: the Internet does not require the physical movement of workers.
de QUATREBARBES (consultant) What is the origin of public services?
Public services combine conflicting interests. They are one of the
instruments of empire or of central powers, and they represent these actively
and symbolically at local levels. They also fulfil local needs with regard
to the organisation of local life. There are similarities but also conflicts
between local needs and those of central powers. The market can and
wants to satisfy local needs; this results in the reduction of local public
services and the power of the centre.
strategy: " once things go wrong, you're more than happy to let the State
repair the damage". This results in take-over by the State (as for the
Differences within public services between missions and operators - In this context, while taking into account the way public services are managed, particularly in France, any progress will necessitate a separation between the missions of the company and the way it is run. According to what criteria should these missions be defined?
F. FOURQUET - (to Pierre Bauby et J.-C. Boual) Everything is possible in spite of the weight of history - By invoking long term and negative trends and by displaying positivist tendencies, I situate myself slightly outside your points of view. The idea of a European society may already be out of date. You react and it's normal. History sheds light on things, but nothing is impossible. Europe is breached on all sides and globalisation is happening (the dominant trend) your action is part of the spontaneous order currently taking place; in the same way liberal elements want to stop the creation of public services at European level. Everything is still possible.
On the three sources of public services and the questions they raise - I agree with Pierre Bauby (but will want to discuss this) on the three sources. To me, your first source (public services and the State) should be entitled specifically "public services are an appendage of the State". The nation State is in crisis, thus the question raised here is that of a European State. I am less convinced about local life (your second source) even though municipal socialism? exists. I totally agree on the third point about the importance of the working class movement. On the whole, the latter is going through a crisis which is also due to globalisation and the question which arises is that of a working class movement at European level. There are no public services without a true social movement.
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